Mt Kenashi (1964m), Mt Fuji area

Mt Kenashi is a famous mountain but not part of the original one hundred. It is part of the famous two hundred mountains, which isn’t bad considering that there are thousands of mountains in Japan. It sits opposite Mt Fuji and thus has some excellent viewpoints of the volcano. In consequence, due to the 2 above factors, there are quite a few people climbing this mountain.

HOW TO GET THERE: The main drawback is that this mountain is tough to get to from Tokyo. You will need to shell out 5000 yen to take the Shinkansen from Tokyo station to Shinfuji station in Shizuoka (about an hour), and then add another 1300 yen for the bus to the Asagiri Green Park entrance (also about an hour). There are a lot of great views of Mt Fuji on the way.

However the way back is cheaper. At the end of the hike you can catch the bus in the same direction and get off in Kawaguchiko. From there the train is 3000 yen back to Tokyo or you can take a bus to Shinjuku station for less than 2000 yen. However if you are going back on a weekend, beware of traffic jams. There are 2 reasons I didn’t go through Kawaguchiko on the way there: first the bus going the other direction would get me to the start of the hike half an hour later and second the train to Otsuki (where you need to change for Kawaguchiko) is so crowded that you may have to stand.

THE ROUTE: Once again I was the only person to get off the bus. Actually that is not entirely correct – a lady hiker hopped off the same time as me, however I soon left her behind. It seems that most people come here by car. I had to walk along a flat road for about half an hour to reach the base of the mountain and the start of the hiking trail. The view of Mt Kenashi towering above me was impressive and I wondered if I really was going to be able to manage this apparently long and steep 1100 meter climb. On the way I passed a wide and grassy camp site on my right with some excellent views of Mt Fuji. I definitely want to camp here some time in the future.

Mt Kenashi with the camp site at its base

At the end of the long asphalt road I turned left following the sign for Mt Kenashi. Eventually I entered the forest, passed numerous parked cars and started climbing along a rock path. There were two main paths up Mt Kenashi and I chose the shorter one so that I would have enough time to take the long ridge route down. The path was divided into 10 stations each marked with a sign, similar to the Mt Fuji stations. I passed quite a few people going up and down the mountain. The weather was sunny and not too cold for a November day although it seemed that autumn was already over on this mountain.

Pine tree forest at the base of Mt Kenashi

As expected the climb was long and seemingly endless. Similar to when I was climbing Mt Takanosuya in the mist, the top ridge always seemed to be slipping away from grasp, always just beyond my level of vision. Every time the path levelled and I thought I was there, it would surprise me by rising steeply again. I was slowly rising above the ridge to the left and right and there was no end in sight to what was increasingly starting to look like some kind of spire.

At last I reached a small rocky outcrop that was marked as a viewpoint of Mt Fuji. I decided to have an early lunch there, not because I was especially hungry but because the view was fabulous, there was a comfortable unoccupied sitting spot and I wasn’t sure about how comfortably I would be able to sit at the summit. However I only got past my first sandwich when I was forced to flee because of an annoying trio of hikers that wouldn’t stop blabbering behind me while taking photos of the view.

The first view of Mt Fuji before the summit

From this point I reached the top ridge reached quite quickly. I overtook a lady hiker for the second time, who couldn’t figure it out since she hadn’t seen me taking my lunch break on the rocky outcrop earlier on. From here on it was easy stroll to the peak although interestingly enough just by getting on the ridge, the temperature had dropped considerably and I was now breathing mist. At nearly 2000m, winter had arrived.

There were plenty of people at the summit but I still managed to find a decent spot to sit down. However the view of Mt Fuji wasn’t as good from here. Before I could tuck in however an older but experienced looking hiker told me in passable English that if I continued ten more minutes along the ridge line I would reach a much better spot for lunch with a 360 view that would include Mt Fuji and the south Alps. That seemed like a very attractive proposition, so after having him take the obligatory photo of me and the summit marker I set off to search for this amazing lunch spot.

Picture perfect view of Mt Fuji along the ridge

View to the South

I never found it and one hour later I reached the next summit Amagadake 1771 m, the last viewpoint before going down the mountain and where I decided to have a late lunch. I was lucky that I had actually eaten before reaching the top since there were literally no good sitting spots with a view along the ridge. Even when I had a 360 degree view the grass on either side was just too high to sit down. I guess the older hiker had walked the ridge in other seasons when the grass hadn’t been so high. The ridge was a mix of forest (cold) and tall grasses (warm). The views of Mt Fuji were the best I had ever seen since the sun was behind me and it was easy to see all the details of the snow covered top. Also there were far less people walking the ridge since most people just went up and down Mt Kenashi the same way.

I found a rectangular block of stone perfect for sitting and moved it into the sun and sat down to munch on the rest of my lunch while gazing at Mt Fuji. I couldn’t stay long however since  I had a bus to catch. In the end because I took some more photos of Mt Fuji I left a little behind schedule and had to run downhill to catch up. It didn’t really matter since this was easily the ugliest portion of the hike. Soon I could see lake Motsuko on my left but too many branches in the way meant that I couldn’t get a good picture.  Oddly enough I had the same kind of hallucinations going down as when going up. Three times I thought I had reached the lowest point between 2 peaks only to discover that the path dipped further down.

Finally I reached the flat part between two peaks and at another view point for Mt Fuji, I saw the escape path for the bus stop leading down to the right. Here I met a male hiker on his way up so I got him to take a photo of myself with Mt Fuji. He told me that he was going to camp at the top of the mountain so that he could see the sun rising above the summit crater of Mt Fuji the next day, also called Diamond Fuji.

After a short while I reached a junction for the Tokai Nature trail which I would like to walk one day. I had to half run half walk the last flat portion of the way and finally reached the bus stop with less than five minutes to spare. The bus back was empty at first but filled up quickly at the next stop. Despite that it was an enjoyable ride since you could see Mt Fuji from time to time.

CONCLUSION: A difficult but rewarding hike with fantastic views up a famous mountain that will see the crowds melt away during the second part.

Climbability rate: 6.2

Mt Shyakushi (1597m), Mt Fuji area

Mt Shyakushi is a non famous mountain and the only reason to climb it is that you can see Mt Fuji really well from it’s summit – there are literally no intervening mountains obstructing the view, just flat countryside and forest surrounding the small Oshino village at its base. It has very few autumn colours and the peak is nothing more than one point among others on the ridge line.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take a train to Fujiyama station (used to be called Fujiyoshida until it was renamed in 2010). There is a direct train going to Kawaguchiko station (the next stop) leaving from Shinjuku station at 8:14 although I’m not sure whether it runs all year round. This convenient yet pricey train will get you to Fujiyama just in time for the bus that will take you to Oshino village. I was the only person on the bus, that is how non famous this mountain is.

THE ROUTE: Following the directions of the bus driver, I headed along a road with Mt Fuji directly behind me. After crossing a couple of small streams I started seeing signs that confirmed that I was on the right route. Very soon I entered a forest with tall beautiful trees and the asphalt road turned into packed dirt and rocks. This reminded me that I was no longer in Tokyo with its tired beaten down forests, but in Yamanashi. Another reminder was that there was literally no one else around. Eventually I did pass a family of five who had come by car.

After climbing steadily for a while I reached a pass where I turned left up the main ridge. Very soon I reached a rocky section with ropes and a nice viewpoint of Mt Fuji. After the obligatory snapshots I continued on towards the summit. On the way it’s possible to do a small round-trip to another slightly higher summit called Shishidome. I was fortunate that I happened to meet a trio of hikers at that junction and so I asked them if it was worth the side-trip. They said no since there was no view so I thanked them and continued on the path to Mt Shakushi which was now slightly downhill.

Suddenly I came upon the perfect lunch spot – a lonely rock with a perfect view of Mt Fuji. I decided to take a risk and have lunch before the summit since it seemed mostly flat from that point onwards and summits can often be surprisingly crowded even when there seems to be no one climbing the mountain.

Occasionally I had people stop behind me to admire the view but overall it was one of the best lunches of my whole hiking career. Not only could I see Mt Fuji in front of me but also the South Alps  (some of the highest peaks were already covered in snow) and lake Yamanako. Eventually I managed to pull myself away from the view and continue to the summit.

The top of Mt Shyakushi has a couple of benches that are in bad need of repair and, interestingly enough, a bell. I was so busy taking photos of Mt Fuji that I actually forgot to ring it in the end. I was glad I had taken my lunch earlier since the sun was moving behind Mt Fuji and thus by now the side facing me was in the shade and less photogenic than before. As a matter of fact it nearly looked like the sun would set exactly behind the cone which is called Diamond Fuji here. Unfortunately there was no way I could stay so late on the top.

There was 2 groups of people preparing to go down when I arrived which was perfect because first I got them to take a nice photo of me with Mt Fuji in the background and second I was able to remove my shirt and sunbathe on one of the bench seats (after they had gone of course). Even though it was November, it was warm in the sun.

There wasn’t really any rush to go down since I could walk to the onsen and I didn’t have a bus to catch. Still I wanted to get off the mountain before dark. My timing was good since just after I set off I passed a couple on the way to the top. This mountain is really that small that people can still go to the top mid-afternoon.

The descent was mainly uneventful except that at one point it got really steep and I slipped and crashed onto my shoulder. Luckily it was dirt so there was no damage. There were many open spaces with nice views of Mt Fuji, still beautiful with the sun in it’s back. There were some fine sideway views of Mt Mitsutoge to the right. I also passed a launching pad for paragliding. There was even a mini funicular to haul the material up to the top. Eventually after a few more twists and turns I got back to the asphalt road.

Mt Mitsutoge

The path down

Walking to the onsen instead of taking the bus was a brilliant idea since I was walking face to Mt Fuji the whole way. After the hot spring, the bus back was just as empty as on the way there.

Walking to the onsen

CONCLUSION: A not too long hike that I recommend doing in autumn or winter when the weather is sunny in order to enjoy the views of Mt Fuji. An onsen within walking distance of the base of the mountain is a definite plus.

Climability rate: 5.9